On Wednesday, 15 August 1883, Monsieur Charles Clermont-Ganneau arrived in London and made his way to the British Museum. What follows is Clermont-Ganneau’s account of the day of his arrival.[1]

“I reached London on Wednesday last, instructed by the Minister of Public Instruction in France with a special mission to examine Mr. Shapira‘s manuscripts, at present deposited in the British Museum, and which have, for some time past, excited such great interest in England.

My studies of the stone of Mesha, or ‘Moabites Stone,’ which I conveyed to the Louvre, and re-constructed in its entirety, my decisive disclosures with regard to the fabrication of spurious Moabite potteries, purchased by Germany, and my labours in connection with Semitic inscriptions generally, gave me, I ventured to think, some authority upon the question, and caused me to hope that the favour would be shown to me, which was accorded to other scholars, and to persons of distinction, of making me acquainted with these documents, which, if they should prove to be authentic, would unquestionably be of incalculable value.

I will not conceal the fact that I entertained, in advance, most serious doubts as to their authenticity, and that I came here in order to settle these doubts. But I thought it my duty to pronounce no opinion until I had seen the originals.

As soon as I had arrived I went to the British Museum, where my learned and obliging friend, Dr. S. Birch, was kind enough to introduce me to Dr. Ginsburg, whom I found in the Manuscript Department, engaged in studying the fragments, in company with Mr. Shapira. Dr. Ginsburg was good enough to allow me to glance at two or three of the fragments which were before him, and postponed until the next day but one (Friday) a more extended examination. He showed, however, some degree of hesitation, and finally expressed himself as uncertain whether it would be convenient or not to submit the fragments to me. It was agreed that I should have a decisive answer on Friday. I fancied that Dr. Ginsburg feared some encroachment on my part, in the matter of the priority of publication of a text which he has deciphered with a zeal which I am happy to acknowledge, and which He has had the honour of first laying before the public. I endeavoured to reassure him in this respect, by informing him that I only wished to concern myself with the external and material state of the fragments; that I should examine them exclusively with this object in view, in his presence; and that I was ready to bind myself to refrain from examining the text, properly so called, and from publishing anything whatsoever on the contents of the fragments.”

Monsieur Clermont-Ganneau looked forward to Friday, 17 August, hoping that he would be allowed to examine the fragments. There was nothing he could do but wait and hope.

[1] The account is contained in a letter that Clermont-Ganneau wrote, dated 18 August 1883, and published in The Times on 21 August 1883. The portion reproduced here is only the account of the events of Wednesday, 15 August 1883. The full account was also published later in Clermont-Ganneau, “The Shapira Manuscripts,” Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement (Oct. 1883), 201-205.